Sponsored by the Arab Orthodox Women’s Society, the Melia Center and shop was established in East Jerusalem in 1994. It is a gathering spot for women and a distribution center for the hand-stitched goods created by women in Jerusalem and across the West Bank.

Given the dire economic realities of life under occupation, women are increasingly foisted into the role of breadwinner for families. Often, extended families share even small salaries. Sales at the Melia Center’s shop enable women to earn an income and to empower women who get training to become businesswomen.

Melia’s seamstresses are both teachers and marketers. Groups of women visit small towns in the Palestinian territories to either locate gifted artisans, or, to teach women the traditional art of Palestinian embroidery, a form of cross-stitch. The women stitch historical patterns, a mix of bold reds, greens and yellows, and create more contemporary designs in softer pastels. The products range from clothing to household goods to utilitarian items, such as eyeglass cases.

Women who utilize the Melia Center are between the ages of 16-to-65. Hala Jahnshan is the manager of the facility.